By Lyle R. Hill

I answered it as it finished its third ring and offered up my usual, if not overdue for a change, salutation. And as soon as the caller started to speak, I recognized his gravelly and somewhat irritating voice. Loved by only a few, disliked by many and feared by all who have ever dealt with him, the voice was that of Johnny “The Mooch” Rago.

“Hill,” he began, “long time no talk. Heard ya had some problems with your heart or something. So how are you feeling?”

“Who told you about my heart problems, Mooch?”

“Oh, I bumped into Jungle Jim Bruney a few days ago … we have the same parole officer … and he was telling me about you. Jungle Jim still does some work with Stumpy Darby, and Stumpy bumped into your kid, and that’s how I found out. Anyhow, how are you doing?”

“I haven’t got any money, Mooch … all going to pay off medical bills.”

“I’m not looking for money, Hill. I’m looking for advice.”

“I’m outta that, too,” I replied, hoping to shorten the conversation.

“Maybe you are, but why don’t you hear me out and then see if you can help?”

“All right, Mooch, let’s hear it.”

“Thanks, Hill. Here’s the thing … you work from home, right?”

“Yes, I do, but not much. Only about 20 hours a week, but where are we going here?”

“Okay, I just want to know what you think about this whole work-from-home thing.”

“Well, I don’t think it’s for everyone, and over the past couple of years some very large corporations have started eliminating, or at least drastically cut-ting back on, their work-from-home programs. Even the government, which I think is the most lax employer in the world, has eliminated the program in some departments or reduced its scale dramatically. In fact, just last week the USDA announced a dramatic change in its work-from-home policy. So if the Feds are making changes, you gotta take notice. I do see some advantages for certain situations, but generally, I don’t like it and I think it gets pretty abused. I know more than a few people who claim to work-from-home who spend more time at the golf course or in the swimming pool than they do in the home office. With the ability to forward calls to your cell phone and have computer access anywhere at any time, I don’t believe it’s all that good of an idea in a lot of situations. Some larger corporations that are reversing course on this say that they lose collaboration and innovation when they let people work from home. At the same time, I read a report a few days ago that stated more than 30 per-cent of recent college grads have jobs where they work from home. Maybe some of these employers recognize that the newer generation wants more flexibility and is used to working alone whenever possible. And yet other studies report that the average office-based employee spends almost 25 percent of their time on things not related to their job. And the computer is often to blame … online shopping, online chats with friends and family, and all kinds of other distractions brought by the computer linked to the outside world. So I think in some cases it may work, in others it will not and to some extent, it might not matter either way. Each case needs its own determination.”

“I think it’s stupid, Hill. You know human nature almost as well as I do. If you aren’t watching them, they will do what they want to do when they want to do it.”

“Some will, Mooch, but if there are performance standards, dead-lines and clear responsibilities, it can work. Like all things, it comes down to the quality of the people you are working with.”

“So Hill, if I worked for you, would you let me work from home?”

“Mooch, I wouldn’t let you work for me from home, the office, or anywhere else. It actually makes me a little queasy to even think about it. But where are you going with all of this?”

“So here’s the deal, Hill. My oldest kid, Johnny Junior, has a job where he can work from home. But with two kids under the age of three, a dog, a cat and a wife that talks a lot, he says he can’t work from his home so he’s working from mine. In the spare bedroom.”

“Okay, Mooch, and what’s wrong with that?”

“The problem is that he’s developing some bad habits. He’s hanging around at the track and a couple of casinos, meeting up with old pals for three-hour lunches and starting down a bad path overall. I just don’t think he’s one of those people that should be working from home—his or mine. He lacks discipline. He lacks self-control. He’s incapable of self-motivation.”

“So, Mooch, I’m guessing you’re afraid he’ll lose his job?”

“No, Hill, I’m much more afraid that he’s turning into me.”

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